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Subject: Ten of the Best Homebrews I've Discovered rss

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In September 2004, I posted a thread here at BGG reviewing what I felt were the ten best "fan-made" Alien powers (i.e. "homebrewed") developed by the game’s particular fan base. I had done a lot of digging through various Internet havens of Cosmic Encounter because I was desperate to expand my Avalon Hill set past the 20 Alien powers that came with that set.

In that post, I explained that, in my opinion, "a good homebrew should be a) readily comprehensible (i.e. clear and succinct in its wording), b) readily playable (i.e. requires no extra pieces like dice, cups, or extra planets), c) bring its own unique 'flavor' to the game and not look and feel like a knock-off of one of the current powers, and d) well-balanced within the context of the game (i.e. a homebrew that’s obviously stronger than Virus or weaker than Crystal [which is not all that weak) is not a good homebrew)."

You can read my original post here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/26706/top-ten-best-homeb.... I’m delighted that one of the 'Top Ten' back then has since been published by Fantasy Flight Games in their base set of the game: Fido, by Brandon Freels. Another aliens, Politician (by Gerald Katz) was not included in the base set, but two similar aliens that actually implement the basic idea of Politician even better are (Observer and Mercenary)! Likewise, Martyr (by Matt Stone) was not included but a similar (and arguably more straightforward) alien is (Kamikaze). Given that (a) Fido is no longer a homebrew, that (b) Martyr and Politician have been effectively replaced, and also that (c) many, many excellent homebrews have been developed since 2004 (I’m sure that I’ve not seen even a fifth of them), I thought I would update this, and simply say that here are 10 homebrews that I believe are excellent and worthy of consideration by FFG at this point in time (i.e. just after the publishing of Cosmic Conflict). I’m hoping a few of these are no longer homebrews in a few years but join Fido in the pantheon!

NOTES: The terminology employed for some of these is the terminology used in all pre-Avalon Hill versions of the game. For those of you not familiar with older version terminology, here’s a quick key (tokens = ships, consolation = Compensation, challenge = Encounter, Edicts = Artifacts, Compromise = Negotiate card). Also, "Wild" and "Super" refer to the Flares (EON style) corresponding to the power. Thanks to Jack Reda’s excellent website, The Warp, in helping me compile power information.

These are not arranged in any particular order.

1. SWORD DIVIDES OPPONENT’S ATTACK CARD
Ken Rubric

You have the power to slash. Use this power as a main player in an encounter in which you have at least one ship. If your opponent reveals an Attack card, you divide the value of his card by the number of your ships in the challenge.

History:
Armed with cutting-edge technology, the Swords are keen on severing all ties, and taking a stab at winning the Cosmic duel. They plan to get the edge on their enemies by slicing through all opposition and thrusting themselves to victory. Their finely-honed strategy and razor-sharp tactics are sure to put them a cut above their foes.

Wild: When a Reinforcement is played during a challenge in which you are main player or ally, you may declare that the Reinforcement divides the player's card, instead of adding to it.

Super: As a main player, before cards are played, you force all players on the opposing side to lose all but one ship that they have in the encounter.

Commentary: This is a simple, elegant, and powerful Combat power. Like Gravitron and Calculator, it reduces the value of Attack cards, and makes ships (particularly allies’ ships) that much more valuable (which I really enjoy). Like Virus, gets weaker as the game goes on, when Sword has fewer ships to commit to a challenge. Sword has no power when he’s defending a planet with 0 ships. Ken’s History is pretty clever.

2. SCAVENGER TAKES CARDS FROM DISCARD PILE
James Beach & James Rasfeld

You have the power of recovery. Whenever you are to take consolation cards from another player, or reward cards from the deck, you may, instead, take any or all of the cards from anywhere in the discard pile. If you do not take all the cards from the discard pile, take the remainder from the appropriate source. You may, if you wish, take some cards from the other player or from the deck before taking any from the discard pile. You may look through the discard pile at any time.

History:
Knowing that one alien's garbage is another alien's treasure, the Scavengers scrounge around the refuse of wasteful civilizations, hoping to find the goods necessary to force the entire universe to be their own garbage dump.

Wild: If another player loses his power, you may use it. You may not use your own power if you are using his and you must keep his power until he regains use of it again or until you lose this flare. You may not use this flare again until the player regains use of his power.

Super: At the start of each challenge, you may take one card from anywhere in the discard pile and put it in your hand.

Commentary: I had this in my 2004 post, and I still feel it’s one of the best. The following is what I wrote then and I feel the same way still:

This is a delightful homebrew that goes way back. EON products, the folks who designed and originally published Cosmic Encounter, put out a magazine to support CE as well as their other games. In their very first issue, they printed some additional powers contributed by fans James Beach and James Rasfeld. Beach and Rasfeld’s homebrews were very good, with a couple later becoming Mayfair powers (Ghost and Industrialist). Scavenger was another, and in my opinion, is their very best as it allows for more creativity than Ghost or Industrialist.

Gerald Katz (at the rec.games.board.ce newsgroup) felt Scavenger was overpowered and substantially weakened the power, but I’ve seen Scavenger in action and it’s fine (certainly nothing on the order of Virus). There's probably going to be some heavy duty cards in the discard pile, but there aren't going to be many opportunities to get them. You have to lose AND play a Compromise in order to get consolation, and opponents who see that the Attack 40, Anti-Matter Flare, Cosmic Zap, and Warp Break are in the discard pile might play a Compromise themselves in order to prevent your picking them up. For defender rewards, the defense is going to look at you, remember your power, and NOT invite you unless he's desperate.

How about some alien art that evokes the Jawas from "Star Wars", the ultimate scavengers?


3. WASTREL MAY DISCARD HAND
attributed to a Washington University Cosmic Encounter group; revised by Gerald Katz

You have the power to discard. As offensive player, you may discard your hand to get a new one after playing any appropriate cards. You may do this upon winning your first challenge but lacking a challenge card with the hope of getting one to do your second challenge. If you then do not get a challenge card, your turn ends. As soon as you are determined to be defensive player, you may play any appropriate cards, discard your hand, and get a new one.

History: The Wastrels have no sense of conservation. They wantonly use what they need and rid themselves of excess. Quickly depleting their own reserves, they seek to exploit the resources of the cosmos.

Wild: Once per challenge before cards are played, you may make either main player discard an Attack card; if he shows you he has no Attack cards, he does nothing. If the offensive player has no Challenge cards after he discards, his turn ends and tokens return.

Super: When you discard your hand, you may keep any cards you want, then draw enough cards to bring your hand to seven.

Commentary: Like Scavenger, Wastrel was also on my 'Top Ten Homebrews' list from 2004. Like with Scavenger, I’m re-iterating my commentary from 2004 (with some minor editing):

Wastrel truly is one of the great homebrews, before you think I have a bias. In fact, Mayfair liked it so much they considered including it in More Cosmic Encounter (it is mentioned in the MCE rulebook), but re-considered and made the ability to discard available to all as the "punt" option. Gerald Katz took the basic version of Wastrel (the "punt" option written as a power) and gave it a bit more beef. The ability to dump your hand and get a new one is a true power indeed.

4. DEMENTOR FORCES OTHERS TO PLAY LOSING ATTACK CARD
Eric Clason

You have the power of bad memories. When you are not a main player in a challenge and the loser played an Attack Card, you may tell him to keep it as a remembered card. This may only be done if the loser does not already have a remembered card. The remembered card is not considered part of a player's hand. When you are a main player in a challenge, if the other main player has a remembered card he must play it as his Challenge Card. After this challenge the remembered card is discarded as normal. A Cosmic Zap can stop a card from becoming remembered or force you to play it for the challenge, but you do not discard it.

History:
The Dementors are able to make others relive their bad memories.

Wild: As a main player, if you win the challenge and your opponent played an Attack Card, record his final total. The next time you are in a challenge with him, use the recorded total as his final unmodifiable total. Discard after use.

Super:
If the loser in a challenge already has a remembered card you may tell him to replace it with the losing Attack Card. Discard after use.

Commentary: It seems that the word ‘Dementor’ has a "Harry Potter" origin? I’m not familiar with "Harry Potter" at all, but this alien is great. Chris Oliveira’s ‘Nightmare’ alien (which according to him was a way to re-implement Witch in a decent way) is similar, but Dementor offers its player a lot more flexibility. Eric Clason did a lot of his alien creation several years before FFG’s version, so the alien’s wording could probably specify that the remembered card be placed on the alien sheet (so as not to mix it up with a hand, or worse yet, accidentally get pushed to the side or fall off the table).
I’m not crazy about how this alien takes away some control from other players, but Dementor can still be overcome through the usual mix of allies, Edicts, and other effects.

5. GROTESQUE CHANGES OPPONENT’S POWER
Jack Reda

You have the power to Transmogrify. Whenever you lose an encounter as the Main Player, you may use this power to force your opponent to draw a power at random to replace his or her current power. You may not transmogrify them into set-up powers. In multi-power games, you decide which power to transmogrify.

History: Twisted in mind and body, the Grotesque punish the abuses of power by means both hideous and harsh. The very nature of their victims is erased completely in favor of a new, radically different persona. Each change they cause twists the Grotesque themselves in a more unnatural way - but they have gone too far to stop now.

Wild: You may change the recipient of a power effect to another player (if the effect is still legal).

Super: You may force your opponent's allies to transmogrify as well.

Commentary: This is a really cool idea for a meta-power. I love how it’s the photographic negative of Reincarnator (although better than Reincarnator, for one because it’s optional), and probably an even better implementation of the idea of wreaking vengeance on your opponent that is the foundation of Witch. Grotesque’s Achilles’ heel is that it could transmogrify Warpish into Virus, or Loser into Pacifist. But that’s usually a risk worth taking.

I considered Jack’s other similar power Benefactor. Benefactor, though, definitely requires an advanced-level player to get the benefit. As well, there doesn’t seem to be a good defense against or Achilles’ heel to Benefactor that is the hallmark of a clean design. It’s a good power, worthy of consideration, but I prefer Grotesque.

So what if you really like your power, you’ve been building a strategy with it toward an eventual win (such as with Cryo), and you don’t want to lose your power? Easy, let Grotesque win. If you’re Tick-Tock and Grotesque is defense, this will work nicely for you as well.

6. PISCES ASKS FOR CARD FROM OPPONENT
Cedric Chin, revised by Gerald Katz

You have the power to go. As main player in a challenge, before Challenge Cards are played, you may ask your opponent if he has a specific card (e.g. Attack Card 12 or Virus Flare). If he has the card he must give it to you. If he doesn't have the card, you draw a card from the Challenge Deck.

History: Always on the hunt for resources, the rather lazy Pisces prefer to get their wares from those who did the work and found it first. Having ready made materials allows them an easier time to conquer their benefactors.

Wild: As main player, if you have Attack Cards in your hand that match the Challenge Card you revealed, you may play them and add them to your total. All cards are discarded normally.

Super: As an ally, you may use your power on your main player opponent.

Commentary:
I loved this power in 2004 and I still love it. It’d be great to see it in a future FFG expansion; although possibly the name might need to be changed to Fisherman or something like that, as its clearly inspired by Go Fish and it was named Pisces to be part of a set of Alien Powers featuring astrological names. As I said before about this power: you deprive your opponent of the resource, and give yourself the ability to use it, either now or later.

7. PRAW CREATES A SECOND WARP
Gerald Katz

You have the power of abyss. When there are 15 or more tokens in the Warp, they all leave the warp and go into the Praw. If any of those tokens are yours, you return them to bases. Anything that can take tokens out of the warp will also take tokens out of the Praw into the Warp. However, if this puts the token count in the warp at 15 or more, they all go back into the Praw. If you lose your power, tokens remain in the Praw but are considered to be in the Warp.

History: Deep within the warp, unknown to the wisest of sages, exists another dimension where the remains of the departed go, unaffected by the latest warp-resurrection technology. What is even more dangerous, they don't even know it is expanding.

Wild: When a player tries to take tokens out of the warp, he must instead put the same number of his tokens into the Warp. Discard after use.

Super: All tokens currently in the warp go into the Praw. All tokens that go into the warp go directly into the Praw.

Commentary: I love what Gerald Katz did here: he took Eon’s original idea of the Praw (which was essentially a Warp within a Warp), and converted it into an Alien Power. Katz did this because he had felt that the Praw was "harsh and unnecessarily delayed the game." However, Katz has reported that it’s worked well as a power. I love how the power makes ships an even more precious resource. Presumably, with FFG’s version, Praw’s Praw would be his alien sheet.

Eon’s Praw specified that the trigger effect was not 15 ships but instead when the Warp had an amount of ships that was 3 times the number of players in the game. Katz changed it into 15, and it’s worked well for him and his group, but probably a better argument could be made to implement the power with the original Eon specifications (i.e. when the ship amount is 3 times the number of players in the game).
I think I would also give Praw the ability to free ships from the Praw (but not the Warp) as part of a deal.

8. PLANETEER CREATES AND MOVES PLANETS
Eric Clason

Game Setup: Take 5 additional planets of a color not in use in the game.
You have the power of cosmic engineering. On your turn, if the selected system for your challenge is your home system, instead of a normal challenge you may create a planet (using one of your unused planets) in your home system and place 1-4 tokens on it from other of your bases. The planet is a normal planet/home base as any other for the rest of the game. This counts as a successful challenge. If the selected system on your turn is a foreign system, you may move a planet you alone occupy to that foreign system. It is now considered a foreign base for you and a home planet for that player's system. This is also a successful challenge. If you should lose your power, planets already created are not affected.

History: Engineering geniuses, the Planeteers find it is easier to create more living space than to fight others for it.

Wild: Take 5 tokens from a color not in use and place them among your bases. They are now considered your regular tokens for the rest of the game. Discard after use.

Super: After creating or moving the planet, you may make a normal challenge in the attacked system.

Commentary: A great alien idea from Eric Clason, that makes use of FFG’s movable planets! I know that this breaks my old rule of not liking homebrews that use extra planets, but given FFG’s producing these separate movable planets, my objection seems moot in this case.
Eric Clason has also has an alien called Explorer which seems like a really neat idea, but as is, it seems significantly flawed, and I can’t seem to wrap my brain around how to confer a more significant advantage to its player.

9. SOPHISTICATE GETS AN EXTRA POWER
Phil Fleischmann

You have the power of advancement. At game setup, use this power to draw two other powers from the unused ones. You have the use of both of these powers throughout the game, subject to the usual loss due to home colonies or Zaps or other effects. You require one additional foreign colony to win the game.

History:
The Sophisticates claim that they've been around longer than any other species. This may or may not be true, but what is certain is that their technology and abilities are far more advanced than any other known race.

Wild: When you are entitled to exactly one reward, you may take two. When you are entitled to exactly one card in compensation, you may take two.

Super: You may draw yet another power to add to the ones you have. Each time you do this, you need one additional foreign colony to win the game.

Commentary:
I am aware that there are many Cosmic fans who enjoy the variant (and it is a variant) known as multi-power games. It is not to my taste, at all, primarily as I believe a game where everybody’s got two (or more!) powers tips Cosmic past the precarious 'balanced imbalance' that it’s already at, and shifts it more decisively towards the players with 'killer power combos' and away from ships, alliances, careful hand management, etc.

That said, Phil is on to something here. This is probably the one instance where I can imagine myself enjoying a game of Cosmic with someone who’s got two Alien power sheets sitting in front of him… and he’s not Reincarnator. What I love about Phil’s design here is that he’s required Sophisticate to earn one extra foreign colony in order to win. The only hitch left, in my mind, is wondering if the alien sheet should further specify some power combinations that would not be allowed, either for being too strong (for example, Mind/Visionary) or completely incompatible (for example, Zombie/Masochist). In general, there may need to be some work done on this to 'smooth it out' for inclusion in FFG’s set, but it seems worth considering. It’s a clever idea for a power.

10. TOADY
HELPS ANOTHER TO A SHARED WIN
James Beach & James Rasfeld

You have the power to kowtow. As soon as you get this power, you announce another player to be your lord. When your lord is main player, you may ally with him without being invited, but may not voluntarily ally against him. Also, before cards are played, you may show your lord any of your cards. He may take them as a group if he wants. As main player, if you pick your lord s color in destiny, you may only attack a different player in his system. If not possible, flip again. If your lord wins the game, you share the win.

History: The Toady recognize that they lack the skills to make excellent leaders. However, they know how to placate the most irritable of people. While anyone would welcome such willing servants, they soon find it bittersweet when they realize they have no choice but to share their authority.

Wild:
If any player wins the game by winning a challenge in which you were his ally, you share in the win. You do not share the win if the player won by making a deal.

Super:
At the start of each of your turns, you may change lords. Announce the change to all players.

Commentary: Another clever idea from Beach and Rasfeld, also published in the first edition of Encounter magazine. I realize that the concept of "shared wins" is distasteful to many CE players, a "solo win" having much more prestige. I avoid shared wins myself. However, the concept of Toady is quite Cosmic and if you don't mind the kind of silliness Toady will engender in a game he's in, it's a lot of fun.

Honorable Mention:
Five other powers I really like the look of are (and you can look these up on The Warp’s Amazing Power Thingy for descriptions): Conjurer (Matt Stone), Glint (Toomai Glittershine), Cult (Jack Reda), Coalition (Bill Martinson), and Huckster (Jack Reda).
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rjburns3 wrote:
6. PISCES .... possibly the name might need to be changed to Fisherman or something like that

I'm happy to see someone else make this observation. Fish/Pisces is a terrific homebrew: simple, fun, and effective. But thematically, the fish isn't the power, it's the card gained; the power is the one doing the fishing. In my set I've renamed it Angler (with the power to Go Fish; "power to go" just wasn't quite enough for me) and I use an image of a predatory angler fish which looks very nasty and otherworldly.

rjburns3 wrote:
8. PLANETEER

Great concept for an alien and a nice, relatively simple use for extra planets. Makes me shudder a bit when I remember Ted Turner's ridiculous child propaganda sermons, Captain Planet and the Planeteers. "Terraformer", perhaps?

rjburns3 wrote:
10. TOADY

Another one I like, for the lopsided spin it puts on player relationships for the entire game. Choosing your master is a very interesting decision.
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I notice that a lot of these need a bit of tweaking to get them into FFG's "use" format. Also it appears that many of the flares are written to be one-shot, Mayfair-style flares.

rjburns3 wrote:

1. SWORD DIVIDES OPPONENT’S ATTACK CARD
Ken Rubric
....
Sword has no power when he’s defending a planet with 0 ships.

It also has no power when he's defending a planet with 1 ship. This power should work well. It is a bit similar to Virus, however. Multiply-me is pretty close in effect to divide-you. But it's not bad at all.

Quote:
2. SCAVENGER TAKES CARDS FROM DISCARD PILE
James Beach & James Rasfeld

It does seem to be overpowered in that it can scavenge the same cards over and over again. The only restriction being that it needs to collect compensation (which requires a loss), or defensive rewards (which requires an invitation). So I can see how it might work. A little like Filch/Clone/Vulch.

Quote:
3. WASTREL MAY DISCARD HAND
attributed to a Washington University Cosmic Encounter group; revised by Gerald Katz

The power should work just fine, but I don't find it as interesting as you do. Although it does create a new strategic consideration - it may be worthwhile to toss your hand not merely to get better cards, but to get cards that no other player has any knowledge of. For example, if you just took consolation from a player, he knows some of the cards in your hand. This may be the only power that has a quick and easy way of stopping others' knowledge.

Quote:
4. DEMENTOR FORCES OTHERS TO PLAY LOSING ATTACK CARD
Eric Clason

Please! Not another pop-culture reference! A fine power, but call it something else. It's a little like an upside-down Clone. It might also be a little too similar to Oracle. As long as another player has lost at least one encounter since the last time he encountered you (which is likely), you know what card he's going to play before you select yours.

One possible suggestion is instead of forcing him to play the remembered attack card, give them the choice of either the remembered Attack card, or a Negotiate Card. And if they play a Negotiate card, maybe they don't get to forget the remembered card. Or maybe they do if they forgo collecting compensation! Or you may allow them to "forget" the card as part of a deal.

Quote:
5. GROTESQUE CHANGES OPPONENT’S POWER
Jack Reda

AFAICT, this is a null power. I get a power other than the one I was expecting, but you get nothing at all. It's like everyone else is the Reincarnator, and you have no power at all. Am I missing something?

Quote:
6. PISCES ASKS FOR CARD FROM OPPONENT
Cedric Chin, revised by Gerald Katz

Seems like a fairly minor variant of the Visionary. Yes, it's different, but since you'll be guessing cards you want, it will be harder to guess right, unless it's a flare they've already played once. The Pisces will wind up with all the flares in his hand. I remember reading through all the powers on the Warp many years ago, and the name "Pisces" and the name "Cedric Chin" stirs up a vague memory of an alien for each zodiac sign, which I'm not sure is a good idea for a naming scheme. After all, other planets won't see the same constellations as we do.

Quote:
7. PRAW CREATES A SECOND WARP
Gerald Katz

I like it, but I might give it a different name. It's like half the Void, plus half the Zombie. It's easier for you to get your ships back, and harder for others. This is one of the powers that needs to be rewritten with a use clause, so we know when it can be zapped.

Quote:
8. PLANETEER CREATES AND MOVES PLANETS
Eric Clason

Great! It could use a better name, though. Terraformer is the only thing I can think of off hand. It's similar to a power that I created a long time ago, but my version didn't work. I didn't think of using the extra planets.

Quote:
9. SOPHISTICATE GETS AN EXTRA POWER
Phil Fleischmann

Wow! I'm flattered! modest Yes, it does need some playtesting. Is one extra colony enough? If not, it could be raised to two. And yes, I base the idea on a typical, random combo - not ones that link up, like Oracle-Sorcerer, or Disease-Filth, or Amoeba-Macron, nor ones that negate each other like Virus-Anti-Matter, or Fungus-Void, or Warpish-Healer. But "normal" combos that are separately useful, like Philanthropist-Bully, or Deuce-Tripler, or Pacifist-Kamikaze.

Yes, one could add some text to the card about "no killer combos" and "no self-defeating combos" but then you'd have to define what those are. One thing I would definitely recommend adding to the text is "no alternate-win powers".

Quote:
10. TOADY HELPS ANOTHER TO A SHARED WIN
James Beach & James Rasfeld

I've seen this one before, but I've never played with it. It's certainly interesting. Make the Anti-Matter, Loser, Tripler, or Reserve your lord, then give him all your low cards. Then, with only high cards left in your hand, go for the solo win. Or make Genius your lord, and give him all your cards twice and have a shared win on the second encounter of the game!
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Phil Fleischmann wrote:
Quote:
4. DEMENTOR
One possible suggestion is instead of forcing him to play the remembered attack card, give them the choice of either the remembered Attack card, or a Negotiate Card.

I like this; it preserves the fundamental Cosmic question: "will they attack or negotiate?". This is why Doppelganger specifically borrows one card of each type.

Phil Fleischmann wrote:
Quote:
5. GROTESQUE
AFAICT, this is a null power. I get a power other than the one I was expecting, but you get nothing at all. It's like everyone else is the Reincarnator, and you have no power at all. Am I missing something?

I think you're right. Basically, you keep rewriting everyone else's DNA until they all have sucky powers they hate. At worst, you upgrade your opponents to stronger aliens; at best, they go from good powers they chose to half-powers they didn't choose, but you're still at least half a power behind the others with your non-power, and you've sucked the fun out of the game for everyone.

Phil Fleischmann wrote:
Quote:
9. SOPHISTICATE
Yes, one could add some text to the card about "no killer combos" and "no self-defeating combos" but then you'd have to define what those are.

It's interesting to play around with ideas for letting players bring in another power that naturally solve those kinds of problems. Here's a Flare I wrote that's unfortunately a bit wordy, and not directly applicable to Sophisticate since it chooses a power rather than getting one randomly, but maybe this can springboard some additional ideas for how the opponents could be used to "vet" the resulting combo:

At the start of your turn, you may choose any alien from the unused powers that is allowed in the current game and does not have Game Setup text. All opponents must vote (yes or no) on whether you keep it. If all vote "yes," use it as an additional power. If all vote "no," give it to any no-voter and remove one of his or her other powers from the game. Otherwise, do either. If you keep the power, give this flare to the Demagogue or to any player who has not yet received a power from it (or discard it, if neither is possible). You cannot play this flare if you have already received a power from it.
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Grotesque is all about changing the conditions of the game. If, for instance, you have Industrialist in the game, and has managed to put a 23 in his stack in the first encounter- that's going to be very difficult for everyone, but Grotesque can nip it in the bud.

It's quite easy for a combination of aliens to start the game where one is able to dominate the others, but this alien gives you some control over everyone's long range plans. If Genius is in the game and starts to accumulate a huge hand- if Cryo is about to unleash his ultimate hand- etc. etc.

I take exception to the idea of it only sucks the fun out of the game for everyone. If my power does something that takes away your advantage, then that's part of the game, and if it sucks the fun out for you, there's plenty of well-balanced Euros available.

I actually quite enjoy getting Grotesqued into a new alien.
 
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But unless you can somehow turn the other players' powers into something worse than no power at all, they all still have some kind of power while you have none.

I do take back the "suck the fun out" comment, though. I was basically imagining the worst-case scenario where I end up with a power that I despise, but the chances of that are pretty remote since there are almost no duds in this edition. So I apologize for the hyperbole.

But I still think any power that does nothing except reduce the strength of other powers is, in effect, a non-power. The best you can hope for is mutual non-functionality, right?
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Thanks Bill, Jack, and Phil for the comments. Just to respond about a few of the aliens:

DEMENTOR

Like Bill, I also like Phil's proposed change here (i.e. the one stuck with the remembered card has a choice of playing it or a Negotiate). On the other hand, Pacifist, Empath, and Warhawk can shrug at that.

GROTESQUE

Bill, I understand your point of view and you explain it very clearly. However, I think there is an argument that Grotesque actually does have a power, but its value/strength is relative to the amount in which players are invested in whatever power they have. For example, Masochist, at the beginning of a game where Healer is also present, is probably not very invested in his power. On the other hand, Warpish with three colonies and 16 ships in the warp, is hugely invested. Masochist in the first scenario is going to try and beat Grotesque as soon as he can. Warpish in the second scenario will be borderline desperate to keep Grotesque from losing! Granted, Grotesque (particularly as offense) is sometimes going to have subtly, or overtly, sell other players' powers to them ("you like being Vulch, right? I mean come on, every single Artifact comes to you!").

Alan Emrich - at his website - makes an important point that CE players often get too wrapped up in "being" their powers, but lose sight of the essential fact that the goal is to win, and your Alien power is simply only a means to that end. In this sense, Grotesque's resource is that the game can be stable for him while he de-stabilizes it for others, by changing their resources on them in a blink. He does have to manage his losing. However, a smart Grotesque can pick his battles, bide his time, pull the carpet out from others (particularly when they're in a groove), maybe even deal his way to 4 foreign colonies fairly quickly, and put himself in a good position. It's a subtle power, and probably not as good as I'm making it out to be now. But I like the way it 'mixes things up' and provides something unusual (stability in an unstable cosmos) to its owner.
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If Reincarnator's strategy is to cycle his power until he finds a powerhouse and then keeps it locked in with wins and self-Zaps, then Grotesque's job is to keep his opponents off balance - truly Reincarnator's evil twin.
 
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rjburns3 wrote:
I think there is an argument that Grotesque actually does have a power, but its value/strength is relative to the amount in which players are invested in whatever power they have.

Wow, I just had my V-8 moment. You're right, Grotesque does have an actual positive power and it's the power to make people want to not beat you. I was looking at the result and completely failing to see the trigger. Thanks, Rob. Sorry, Jack.

bhz1 wrote:
If Reincarnator's strategy is to cycle his power until he finds a powerhouse and then keeps it locked in with wins and self-Zaps

Is that Reincarnator's strategy? Sounds like a longshot. I though the strategy was "relax and enjoy being an alien that isn't very competitive but has the fun factor of getting a lot of different powers in front of you".

Given the sense that was just knocked into me today about Grotesque, it seems like Reincarnator, when he has a strong power, has the power to make people want to beat you even more. However much you want to take three home colonies away from a strong alien, you want to do it even more when that strong alien was reincarnated into because (a) you only have to make him lose one encounter, anywhere, and (b) the "zap" of that power is permanent.

I think one chooses Reincarnator for style, not strength.
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Bill Martinson wrote:
I think one chooses Reincarnator for style, not strength.


Fair enough. I guess in a game where the mere presence of certain aliens causes everyone to re-evaluate their tactics when it comes to hand content, ship risk, foreign colony fortification, ease of alliances, Reincarnator (and therefore Grotesque) keeps everyone dancing around like someone's shooting at their feet.
 
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I like a few of your choices there, Rob, and following your example, I composed a list of my own ten favorite homebrews from others.

ALEXANDER
SWITCHES TOKEN VALUES (Cedric Chin)

You have the power of the great. When you challenge your opponent, his tokens value is equal to the number of tokens of his smallest base (no matter where it is). When you are challenged, your token value is always equal to the number of tokens of your largest base.

Wild: You may exchange the tokens you have in a challenge with your tokens from any of your bases.

Super: Your opponent's allies each have a token value of the number of tokens on their smallest bases.

Commentary: This has been one of my favorite Cedric aliens. I like the very simple concept, and how it forces players to spread their forces around (and let's Alexander pile up on one planet). I'd like to see a name change, though.

BEHEMOTH
Ships Are Twice as Powerful (Jack Reda)

You have the power of Scale. Whenever you are involved in an encounter, use this power to count all other players' ships as half their normal value (rounding down) for the purposes of encounter totals. For example, Macron's ships would count as 2 each, Leviathan's worldship would count as 10, etc.

History: The Behemoth language has no words for the concept of largeness. To them, everything is described in terms of being smaller, for the Behemoths are incredibly large. Size is a relative matter, and despite being massive, the Behemoths are neither clumsy nor slow. Crushing their puny adversaries is merely a matter of convenience.

Wild: When you land ships on a planet, any ships already there belonging to other players must move to other colonies where they have ships.

Super: As a main player, other players' ships count as one fourth of their normal value (rounding down) for the purpose of encounter totals.

Commentary: Readily playable, and it's in my own personal homebrew set of aliens. Players have to commit more ships just to have them count in a significant way. I like how it also takes some of the other effects like Leviathan down a notch.

BODYGUARD
Ships are Worth More as Allies (Jack Reda)

You have the power to Protect. As an ally, use this power to increase the value of your ships for encounter totals. Each one of your ships is now worth the number of ships the main player on your side has in the encounter.

History: Selfless protectors, the Bodyguards are dedicated to the preservation of those they serve. Sacrificing their own interests, the Bodyguards put every effort into the victory of their allies. Perhaps they are mindless brutes, as their detractors describe them. Or, perhaps there is a cunning plan quietly unfolding.

Wild: The attack card you reveal as a main player is worth +2.

Super: As an ally, if your side has lost the encounter, you may sacrifice an equal number of your ships not in the encounter by removing them from the game. Your side now wins the encounter.

Commentary: What I like about this is that it, like Cavalry, encourages invitations to ally. It's hard to resist Bodyguard when you know even just two ships is a big addition (and do you really want your opponent to have that?)

CONSCIENCE
Forces Future Alliance (Christopher Oliveira)

You have the power of Conviction. Whenever you lose an encounter as a main player, use this power to give your opponent a Conviction token. When you are main player, you may force any or all players who have Conviction tokens (except your opponent) to ally with you and send 4 ships, although they are not required to abandon any colonies in order to do so. Each player not asked to ally who has a Conviction token (except your opponent) must give you an attack card valued 12 or higher if they have it.

When you become the offensive player, all forced alliances with your opponent are broken; take your Conviction token from that player if they had one.

History: Ethereal beings from an unknown galaxy, the Conscience have been caught up in the warfare against their will. Their assailants are suddenly overcome with conviction and do what they can to help their former enemies. The Conscience desire to end the warfare by winning the Cosmic Encounter, and spreading their ways throughout the universe.

Wild: After ships are launched but before alliances are made, if you are a main player in an encounter, you may force any one player of your choice except the opposing main player to ally with you and to give you an attack card 10 or higher if they have it. They chose how many ships to commit.

Super: Forced allies receive nothing for helping you, and return their ships to their colonies.

Commentary: I think this could easily replace Crystal. I like Jack's revision of Crystal, but maybe this one a little more. Conscience has to lose a main player, and his opponent knows that Conviction token is coming, and that a full fledged alliance is in his near future. It's a little like the Industrialist lose to not stack effect in a way.

GITH
Warp Counts As A Colony (Gerald Katz)

You have the power of limbo. When you have ships in the warp, it counts as a colony towards the win. You must have ships in the warp to win the game. You may only move ships into and out of the warp as any player normally would. Other players may encounter your warp ships on any Wild Destiny, ignoring its directions. If you win the encounter, proceed as if you won defensively on a regular colony. If you lose the encounter, your opponent and his allies get a colony anywhere in your system, and all your ships are released from the Warp. Return them to colonies.

History: The Gith know that everyone winds up in the warp. They utilize this eventuality by preparing the warp as their headquarters for universal domination.

Wild: When your color comes up in the destiny pile, you may have the offensive player attack your warp tokens. If you win, release them from the warp. If you lose, your opponent gets a colony in your system.

Super: You may put a ship in the warp during each of your regroups.

Commentary: I wanted to include an alternate win alien, and this one is simple and different enough from the others. We have altered our own though to include that Gith must have at least 4 ships in the warp for it to count as a colony.

IMP
Keeps Or Discards Negotiate Cards (Matt Stone)

You have the power of vice. As main player, you may use this power to either collect all negotiate cards from all players or else give away all your nompromise cards to other players.

History: Pranksters to the core, the Imps delight in playful torturing. More then willing to take upon themselves other people's handicaps, they are just as quickly to bombard others with handicaps of their own.

Wild: You may give away all your cards to any other players, including this flare.

Super1: If negotiate cards are the only encounter cards in your hand, you may give them to any other players and then draw eight cards from the deck.

Commentary: There's something truly evil about moving negotiate cards around the game in large groups. Certain powers thrive on them, and you limit their effectiveness. You also get to flood someone's hand with them, meaning they have some losses to look forward to, or have to hope they can deal.

INSURGENT
Takes Ships as Compensation (Jack Reda)

You have the power of Collateral. Whenever you are entitled to compensation, you may use this power to take ships from the opposing players for some or all of your compensation. You may target ships on any colonies from any or all players that opposed you in the encounter. Ships are placed out of the game onto your alien sheet. When other players take compensation from you, they may retrieve their own ships as some or all of their compensation, sending those ships to the warp.

History: Centuries of peaceful existence came to a brutal end for the Insurgents with the advent of space travel. Their society underwent a fundamental change when they learned that other races did not share their values. The sacred art of negotiation was lost forever, and the Insurgents embraced a coarser path- that of attrition. Those who are unwilling to find compromise will pay a higher price.

Wild: If you lose an encounter as a main player, choose a ship belonging to your opponent and send it to the warp.

Super: As an ally, if your side negotiated, you may collect compensation for any ships you lost.

Commentary: I had an idea like this a long time ago, but I like the idea of players being able to get their ships back as compensation. I think CE needs a couple more aliens that can take ships out of the game of capture them in some way.

PYGMY
Colonies Count as Half (Jack Reda)

Game Setup: Choose an unused player color and place the 5 extra planets in your home system (4 in a 4 planet game). Only the destiny color of your ships is in the Destiny deck. Place 2 of your ships on each of your home planets.

You have the power of Half. Each of your home worlds counts as only half of a foreign colony for all other players (rounding down).

There can never be more than four ships on any of your planets (counting yours). When determining landing order, use the timing rules.

History: When the Cosmos was young, the Pygmies were quite large, living on twin worlds, rich with valuable resources. A gravitational anomaly caused the two planets to collide, scattering the Pygmies among the ruined rubble of their former homes. With so little space to exist, each successive generation of the Pygmy race became physically smaller, but the desire to grow their empire never diminished. The ragged and inhospitable chunks of debris on which the Pygmies now live serve only as a staging ground for their invasion of other worlds.

Wild: When a player is to collect rewards, he or she may only take half as much as they are entitled to (rounding down).

Super: As a defensive player in your own system, the value of your opponent's attack card is worth half (rounding down).

Commentary: This sounds like a very cool alien power (and great use of extra planets). Pygmy can burn low cards on half the encounters in the system, since there's only 2 ships at risk, and the colony won't yet count for the winners. The limitation of ships on the planets also means that players can't attack with a very large force.

SET
Uses group of challenge cards as one card (Lindsey Dubb)

You have the power to meld. You may, whenever you use cards from your hand, count any group of attack cards that are either consecutive or of the same value as a single attack card with a value equal to the sum of those cards.

History: Born from the decaying remnants of discontinued collectible card games, the Set know that only cosmic power will make them truly complete.

Wild: You may discard any cards in your hand which match the top card in the discard pile.

Super: You may play multiple negotiate cards in an encounter as if they were a single negotiate card, multiplying your compensation by the number of negotiates you play.

Commentary: I always liked this idea.

VANGUARD
Heads Off Attacks (Jack Reda)

You have the power of Precedence. At the start of the game place a ship in front of your planets. Whenever another player attacks your system (after they load the Hyperspace Gate, but before pointing it at any planet), use this power to force him or her to first attack your vanguard ship. You each play encounter cards. If you win, your opponent must return home and end his or her turn. If you lose, your opponent proceeds with his or her encounter. No ships are lost as a result of the vanguard encounter. If after encounter the vanguard your opponent has no encounter cards his or her turn ends. No compensation is gained from a vanguard encounter.

History: For as long as the Vanguards remember, they have told the tale of the lost ship that held off an entire fleet. From that legend an empire grew, and the Vanguards have seen the usefulness of sending a small force ahead to meet their attackers. Those unable to oppose the advance units quickly see the futility of engaging the main forces.

Wild: You may force your opponent to reveal his or her encounter card before inviting allies.

Super: If your opponent loses the vanguard encounter, you may send his ships to the Warp.

Commentary: What's especially fun about Vanguard is that it not only protects its system better than most aliens, but it has a subtle element of hand management. Vanguard can safely unload cards in the vanguard encounter, since ships aren't lost. Opponents also have to waste a card just trying to start the encounter (and may end up using their last card before getting to do anything).
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DEMENTOR

Some more comments on Dementor... I just realized that it wouldn't work in a game with either Magician or Visionary (however, those two seem to have no conflicts with each other).
 
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I like Dementor quite a bit. I don't see how it conflicts with Visionary. I also don't really believe it conflicts with Magician either. Magician does his thing, taking a card from Dementor and adding it to his hand, but when it comes time to play a card, he has to actually put down the remembered card.

I also think it's not terribly pop-culture specific. I mean, we know what it references, but it's not as overt as Spiff. It's a good-sounding name.
 
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Gerald Katz
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Expecto Patronum!

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The Warp wrote:
I like Dementor quite a bit. I don't see how it conflicts with Visionary. I also don't really believe it conflicts with Magician either. Magician does his thing, taking a card from Dementor and adding it to his hand, but when it comes time to play a card, he has to actually put down the remembered card.


Hmmm... you're right. There doesn't seem to be a conflict with Magician. The conflict with Visionary, though, is not when Visionary and Dementor face each other, it's their effects on other players. For example, both are in a game with Empath (just as an example). Empath has a remembered card from a previous encounter, but now faces Visionary, who tells him to play an Attack 4. Assuming Empath has an Attack 4, whom does he obey?

I'm presuming that Empath would have to play the remembered card that he already has, and Visionary is simply out of luck. Hmmm, perhaps it's more appropriate to say that Dementor "hoses" Visionary rather than outright conflicts with him.
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SWORD

I just realized that Sword's exact effect would need to be spelled out - does he modify the card value or the challenge total? If the card value, then the interaction with Tripler needs to be considered, as they both change the card value. Perhaps Tripler's effect should take place first?

I don't think there's a problem versus Virus; Sword modifies the card, then Virus multiplies the adjusted card value to his token amount.
 
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Barney, that's great that you also made a list of the homebrews you like. I like the look of most of them. One by one:

ALEXANDER

Wow, that is a really cool alien, and it'd be great in a future FFG expansion. I love how Alexander neuters Virus, in particular. It also looks like it hoses Fungus. You're right that the name is pretty lame.

BEHEMOTH

Interesting alien. As it's in your set, have you discovered any bugs with it? I'm curious as to how it works against Fungus. I'll admit this one doesn't do as much for me as Alexander does.

BODYGUARD

Kind of a token Calvary, as you point out. I wouldn't mind seeing this in a future FFG expansion.

CONSCIENCE

Nice alien, a bit unwieldy, but doesn't sound like it would be too much of a problem in terms of actual gameplay and/or conflicts with other Aliens. I also agree that it could replace Crystal.

GITH

I've liked this one for a long time, and it almost made into my Ten as well. I like this one more than I do Masochist, whom Gith definitely overshadows.

IMP

This is one I was aware of, and also enjoy. At first glance, it may seem weak, but I'm not sure that it is at all. I love how it hoses Pacifist (for whom a N is an auto-win!); it also hoses non-powerhouses Empath and Warhawk. Mutant isn't going to enjoy Imp's presence in a game, either. Just a nice power that does something weird and I'd love to see it in an expansion.

INSURGENT

Not bad. It might overshadow Shadow (Assassin) a bit, but not too much. Bully seems more powerful, but Bully does have to win in order to exercise his (pretty substantial) power.

PYGMY

Clever little power; worthy of consideration. It will require some mathematical brain-burning, particularly on the part of the other players, but I think I'd categorize that as "good annoying" rather than "bad annoying". It wouldn't be my first or second choice for a FFG expansion, but it's not bad either (Planeteer uses extra planets better, IMO).

SET

Love it, it's too cool. Yes please, let's see it. Set will love how the deck has so many 6s and 8s.

VANGUARD

I considered this for the Ten I posted. Your commentary on it helped me appreciate it more. Definitely worthy of FFG's consideration.
 
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rjburns3 wrote:
If the card value, then the interaction with Tripler needs to be considered, as they both change the card value. Perhaps Tripler's effect should take place first?
Multiplication and division are associatve; as long as you don't round in the middle you'll get the same answer either way.
 
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Behemoth has been very straight forward and fun to play. With regard to Fungus, we count Fungus' stacks as half their value. It seems to me with the examples given in the power desc that Fungus would be affected. Fungus' power states that each stack is considered one ship, and that you add the number of ships in the stack "instead of 1".

I'm a little concerned that Planeteer's power is mostly "get two free colonies on your turn without having to do anything". Most of the games I play, you usually have at least 3 colonies with no one else on them when your turn comes around. While there's a chance you'll draw your own color, you're still adding a colony in your system to make it easier to get a free colony on your second encounter. It seems way too easy to get colonies this way. If Planeteer is first in the game, he gets 2 colonies off the bat and doesn't even use an encounter card. Disease at least has to win a couple of encounters, and then can get free ones if Destiny plays out right. I think building a planet should cost resources, and he'd have to discard his hand or something to do it. That way, he can either take the free planet on his first encounter, or gamble that he can win his first the old fashioned way, and then get the second one for free by getting another player's destiny.

goo
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You bring up a good point on Behemoth's interaction with Fungus, so I have gone back and edited the entry on The Warp to include a Fungus example in the power description. Gracias!
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Phil, I also wanted to tell you that I really like your Cheerleader alien. It's thematic, it's straightforward, and I think it'd be pretty fun to play. Kudos.
 
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I love Wastrel and Gith. I love the idea of Grotesque. It sounds like a fun alien to play with.
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Hey guys,

The powers that be are listening to our discussions here as they think about the next expansion. Please take a moment to recommend your favorite homebrews in this thread, if you haven't already...

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/640103/cosmic-encounter-...

 
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